How A Female Fashion Illustrator Turned Entrepreneur is Breaking Boundaries
It’s an exciting time for women, an experimental time for fashion and a nostalgic time for art. With the influence of technology in fashion and the immense growth of the social media universe, people are missing the olden days like never before. Our society’s collective longing for all that is physical, pure and the authentic has never been so potent. But how then, do we bring that which we loved from the past and make it fit into our future?
Published fashion illustrator, author, entrepreneur and founder of Chic Sketch, Emily Brickel Edelson is one of our biggest idols when it comes to female entrepreneurs today. Not only did she make a name for herself in the competitive industries that are fashion and art, she also managed to build a successful business out of scratch, in a niche that had not yet been discovered. She brought traditional illustration back – after so many deemed it irrelevant – with a unique mix of current technology, high fashion and raw creative talent. Because of the success of her app, Chic Sketch – which lets users transform their photos into custom sketches that are made to order – Emily’s been named one of Who What Wear’s 12 Incredible Fashion Illustrators, along with one of 6 New York Women Who Are Breaking Down Barriers For Girls Around The World by Elite Daily. She is breaking boundaries and looking flawless while doing it.
Check out our Q&A with this talented lady and get your custom-made sketch for that stylish #OOTD Insta!
Did you always know you wanted to be an illustrator? If so, why did you choose to study Fashion Merchandising?
I never knew fashion illustration was something that could really be my career or even a career in general. I actually always wanted to be a fashion designer. I had been drawing my whole life for fun and took classes here and there but really wanted to learn the business, since I’ve always had the entrepreneur bug inside of me and I wanted to learn skills that I didn’t yet have.
What shows did you sketch during this year’s New York Fashion Week?
I was sketching at Noon by Noor, Michael Costello, Ulla Johnson, Saks Fifth Avenue Downtown grand opening, Nicole Miller, Namilia, Jeremy Scott, Taoray Wang, Leanne Marshall, Libertine, Dennis Basso, Xuly. Bet, and Marchesa among others.
What are some of your favorites designers to sketch for?
Nicole Miller is one of my favorite designers to work with. She and her team are so warm and welcoming and so talented. I have always looked up to her and it’s a real honor to have collaborated with her on a time-lapse video sketch series to open up her NYFW runway show! I also love sketching for Marchesa, Michael Costello, Libertine and Jeremy Scott. Their shows are always amazing. I also loved sketching past seaons at Rachel Zoe, Reem Acra and BCBG Max Azria / Hervé Legér. I love working with designers that have always inspired me and I look forward to working with more!
How did you come up with the concept for Chic Sketch?
After years of doing fashion illustration professionally I had started to get commissioned to sketch live on paper at fashion industry events like store openings and trunk shows. My fiancé at the time (my now husband and Chic Sketch co-founder) came to these events to watch and saw how excited people got when they received their sketches. He saw their reaction, how they immediately wanted to post it on social media, share it and the strong emotional connection they had to the sketch. He realized there was something to it and that we had to go digital. He was coming from a tech background as an app developer, so we married tech and fashion – literally, and started our app Chic Sketch!
How have people reacted to your app and who is your target audience?
Most everyone has a really strong emotional reaction to seeing themselves as a fashion sketch. I think it’s because everyone understands the “selfie” but we take it and elevate it, making everyone look good – making everyone chic. Our target audience is a selfie-loving, social media enthusiast who loves a good OOTD. We also are loved by brides, moms sending birthday gifts, couples portraits, dog lovers and even people who want to bring life to a vintage portrait of a family member. At less than $10, a chic sketch by us is the perfect gift for anyone.
What do you wish to achieve with Chic Sketch?
We want to bring joy and excitement to our customer or “guest” as we call them. I think in this Instagram/image obsessed age we can get really hard on ourselves in terms of physical appearances and beauty, but with Chic Sketch anyone can look great. We bring out the chic in everyone. We also love partnering with great brands to create Chic Sketches of in-store or live event guests because it’s a really positive experience to remember their brand and the event by. It's like a photobooth but more fashionable and unique.
What do you think when people say that “fashion illustration is dead”?
I show them the Chic Sketch app!
How did you find your way into the industry? Did your degrees from FIT and Polimoda help you get where you are now?
I have always wanted to be a part of the fashion industry since I was little. My grandpa was a college professor among other things (he was pretty amazing) and he took me, my sister and cousins to FIT when we were really little on one of our NYC excursions. He told me if I wanted to be a fashion designer, I needed to go here. It is one of the best things I ever did to get to where I am now. I met a lot of encouraging professors along the way, some of whom helped me get started in the many internships I took, made it easier for me to take risks, showing me that the things I wanted could really be done and they really inspired me. I studied abroad at Polimoda as an exchange program with FIT. I got to live in a whole other country and really see what it’s like to step out of my comfort zone. I think seeing myself take big risks and knowing they paid off helped me take the leap to start my first business in 2009 and go down the entrepreneurial path.
How do you feel about the importance of a college degree even in creative fields such as art and fashion?
I think getting a college degree is extremely important – especially a business degree in a creative field if you want to run your own business. Getting specialized degrees and learning the tricks of the trade is also critical to landing your first job. It’s all about building on each step. Having the classes under your belt allows you to get accepted into the internships you want, and having great internships is the best way to get the job you want. Now we have social media, which wasn’t taught when I was in college, but you have to keep learning along the way and teaching yourself everything you need to know in the field you want to be in. I also believe in being an entrepreneur and not necessarily having to stick to the formal training, but in learning along the way and getting advice from people who have been there.
What advice can you give other fashion illustrators who want to make it in this industry?
I say work hard, get inspired, trust YOUR style, don’t feel like your art has to look like other artists just because they are popular. It’s great to fit in, but to stand out is where you can really make your mark. Not everyone will necessarily understand what you are doing at first, but stay motivated and trust yourself. Pay attention to where people are responding to and give them more of it. Get your art out there on social media, that is really the key to getting orders and building a following. Also, never stop having fun!